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Police Review Board Addresses Grand Jury Report

May 30, 2012 1:14 p.m.

Guest: Jim Kaese, chair-nominee, Citizens Review Board on Police Practices

Related Story: Police Review Board Responds To Grand Jury Criticism


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The head of the citizens police review board challenges accusations made by San Diego's grand jury. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The grand jury claims that review board is bullied by police investigators and is plagued by cronyism. The acting chair of the San Diego citizens review board on police practices defends his board and will comment on the report. The only candidate running in San Diego city Council District 5 is a first-time politician. We will hear from the unopposed candidate and find out how unusual this kind of one person race is. And the sights and sounds of the golden age of New York jazz at MOPA's Jazz loft Project. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. The head of San Diego citizens review board responds to a harshly critical grand jury report. And we will need a sure winner in this year's primary election unopposed candidate Mark Kersey This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Wednesday, May 30. Here are some of the San Diego stories we're following in the KPBS newsroom. The environmental group San Diego Coast Keeper is launching a new phone app that will allow beachgoers to check water quality before heading to the shore. The center city development Corporation gets details today on the latest plan for developing the fat city restaurant site on the edge of downtown San Diego. And former high school football star Brian Banks, a guest on Midday Edition earlier this week is in the news again. Last week Banks had his name cleared of rape conviction after serving five years in prison. Today we hear he's been contacted by six NFL teams. His first trial is with the Seattle Seahawks. Listen for news throughout the day right here on KPBS. Our top story on Midday Edition, the citizen board tasked with reviewing citizen complaints against the San Diego Police Department has received some serious complaints of its own from the San Diego County grand jury. In a report filed last week the grand jury found that the citizens review board has been intimidated by police internal affairs officers. It also claims the board has weak leadership and asserts that board membership is tainted by cronyism. Here to talk about the accusations made by the grand jury is my guest Jim Kaese. He is chair nominee of the citizens review board on police practices and Jim, welcome to the program.

JIM KAESE: Thank you Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's start with some basics about the citizens review board if we could how many people sit on the board.

JIM KAESE: There are 23 members on the board.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And do they get paid?

JIM KAESE: Absolutely not. We don't even receive a per diem for our parking we receive stamps on me Park at the city but no, no we are absolutely not compensated and we put in approximately 20+ hours of work each month.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now how do you get on the board?

JIM KAESE: You apply throughout the year there'll be a couple of times with applications and nominations are requested and then there's an interview process subsequent to the interview process there's an FBI check etc. And then you are placed as a prospective member of the board, typically people will serve as a prospective member for a year plus before they even are put on the board because we have to wait until an opening becomes available on the board for prospective member to be placed on.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And how long has this board been operating?

JIM KAESE: I believe 1988. You are checking my history but I believe the voters passed a referendum in 1988. The city of San Diego. So we as a board do not receive or hear complaints beyond the city of San Diego. If it involves a Police Department, El Cajon for example or Chula Vista or County we do not receive those complaints. It is only city of San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what specifically is the task of the citizens review board, what are you reviewing?

JIM KAESE: Primarily it is oversight of the police. We are making sure they are following procedure. But I think it is very important to point out that we do not conduct our own investigations. We cannot. We are not given the authority through the referendum that was passed. So the investigation process that we do actually is just reading over the investigation that was performed by internal affairs. And if we have questions, we can follow up and ask internal affairs those questions and get answers. We can also disagree with internal affairs. And I think that's one of the things that frankly didn't come out in the report, that the CRB actually disagrees with internal affairs quite often. I would say that approximately 20% of the time the CRB ends up having disagreements with internal affair findings and is able to persuade internal affairs to come around to its side of thinking for the complaint.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the CRB of course is the citizens review board. I just want to make sure everybody understands what you're talking about. What was the nature of the complaints that you received these files and they have already undergone a police internal affairs investigation. Would you characterize most of them as serious complaints?

JIM KAESE: You could characterize it that way. Sure. Sure. In fact if it is not a serious complaint that there is a category of complaints that we do not review, for example if somebody only complains that an officer was discourteous to them, we will not see that complaint. However, if the complainant complaints of a courtesy complaint attached to or along with a force complaint for example, excessive force or discrimination, or there is an officer involved shooting, these are the more serious allegations that we do in fact review.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And as you are breaking it down you think that the board agrees with the police about 80% of the time, disagrees about 20%?

JIM KAESE: I would say roughly that's the case. I mean from individual member to member it varies. Frankly I am one of the most outspoken members of the board and I probably disagree more often than not. And so, there is a freedom to, despite what the grand jury report says, in my opinion there is a freedom to disagree and I think one of the things that needs to be remembered is, and frankly I think as a board we need to do a better job when we are talking about how people get onto the board. And they apply. And during that interview process I think we might need to do a better job of setting people's expectations, that this is not, this is something that takes a certain character. For example, if there is a complaint of force against a police officer and internal affairs believes that the complaint is unfounded, but I disagree and I go to internal affairs after reviewing their investigation and I say look you know what, I disagree. I think this is a legitimate complaint what you think internal affairs is going to say?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What does it say?

JIM KAESE: They're not going to say you're absolutely right we agree with you. What they're going to say is okay, what are your reasons for that? Why do you think this way?what is in the report that substantiates your feeling? And I would expect them to. They've done their job. They feel they've done a thorough investigation. If I'm coming to them and I'm disagreeing I should have substantiation prepared. Now to me that is just a discourse that should be had.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me tell everyone I'm speaking with Jim Kaese he is chair nominee of the citizens review board on police practices and we are talking about the grand jury report that was critical of the board that came out last week. Let's talk about some of the things that the grand jury said. The grand jury was critical about officers from internal affairs being at the meetings of the board and some former board members claiming that those investigators would argue with and bully board members have you seen it happen, Jim?

JIM KAESE: I have seen that happen and frankly I haven't seen it happen recently. It happened several times over the course of a year or two, about a year or two ago and primarily it happened via a board member who was placed on probation for four issues that are related to some of these things. decorum issues. Personal attacks.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Were personal attacks is one of the things the jury said to the board (inaudible) yelling cursing. That kind of thing.

JIM KAESE: Right, personal attacks yelling cursing and there was one primary offender, one board member who was placed on a one-year probation and is no longer on the board. So in terms of the decorum issues I have seen. In terms of bullying I have not seen bullying. Internal affairs again I think it gets backs to bullying is a big term. Bullying is a big term. There is no detail in the grand jury report about bullying. It gets back to what I was saying before in terms of if I receive pushback from an internal affairs officer after he disagreed with their complaint I expect that. And to me that might not be bullying. To some it also might be bullying. So I think we just need to promote or make sure people are aware of you need a little bit of thick skin in this position.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You said in your news release that in response to the grand jury report you are already working to address the issues brought up by the grand jury. What are those issues and how are you addressing?

JIM KAESE: Well there's a variety of issues. The improvements that the CRB is looking at I think number one number one this gets back to the grand jury report wasn't as thorough as it should have been. The number one issue that the board is facing right now beyond any issue. The number one issue is that we need a full-time Executive Director. We do not have a full-time Executive Director right now. When the board, up until about three years ago we had two full-time positions. We had a full-time Executive Director and we have a full-time administrative staffer.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And they were paid positions?

JIM KAESE: They were fully paid positions. Two years ago we lost the full-time administration staffer. Excuse me, three years ago. And the year after that we lost the full-time Executive Director position. The person who is now the executive director was the full-time human relations committee director and she is now splitting her time between human relations and CRB. The citizens review board. And she's a brilliant woman and very talented and very capable except the problem is we just don't have enough of her time. We need more time from a full-time professional because as you can imagine, Maureen, it affects everything. If you don't have a full-time Executive Director that affects our reach. Outreach affects diversity. Affects problem-solving when issues are rising. I mean it affects everything so we truly truly need a full-time Executive Director to help us manage the board and the bigger issues, to that face the board.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In addition, beyond the sort of give and take that you described when you disagree with an internal affairs investigator and perhaps there's a little back and forth that goes on, do you think that it is wise to have internal affairs investigators at these board meetings to begin with?

JIM KAESE: Of the first issue is, is it legal and we've asked the city attorney's office to give us an opinion on that and it is my understanding that there's a couple attorney general reports that are out there. We have not yet heard from city attorney, their opinion on that. I am a former trial attorney, 15 years. Candidly I've never been called group a lease before, quite the opposite. And so I've looked at the attorney general report. In my opinion, not speaking on behalf of the board but in my opinion I don't see anything in the report or the subsequent reports that would state that it's illegal for internal affairs to be there. So my guess is that there's going to be any legal precedent that keeps them out of there. But, that being said, I think as a board we need to do an internal review to determine if there are members who are intimidated by internal affairs, having internal affairs inside the room at the time. Now, from the grand jury report that's not really clear because again one of the issues is it doesn't state, to give these fake in broad terms. They say board members, plural. Is there one or two, is a 10 or 15. I don't even know how many members of the board were interviewed by the grand jury. I can tell you that not one officer, not one officer of the CRB was interviewed by the grand jury. Myself included. And back in my trial attorney days if I received a complaint about a company or organization, the first thing I'm going to do is what? Were you going to interview? The people who are in charge. So it shocked me, shocked me that not only did I not get a call or a subpoena or whatever format they use, but our current chair did not.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you about another thing that the County grand jury brought up in that is the way board members are basically interviewed and their names are sent on for appointment to the mayor. It is done internally by the board itself and they said that that gives rise to a certain feeling of cronyism within the board. You contact people that you know perhaps, like-minded people etc., would you see an area where there should be changed?

JIM KAESE: Well it is actually factually not accurate. That is a false statement. There are members of the committee that are not board members, not current board members on that interview committee. So that is false. And those members typically are part of the minority community because they recognize that we want to be as diverse a board as possible. Right now, and you won't get this from the grand jury report, right now we are about 74% white, 26% minority. We are 60% male, 40% female. Are we looking to increase that diversity? I mean we are always trying to be as diverse as possible. So in terms of your question there is a false premise, there. We don't only have board members that are on that. Now, should we look into possibly having a couple more people from the community sit on that interview panel? Sure, sure we can look at that. But should it be like the grand jury recommends a purely mayoral appointment? Then I think we could again, speaking personally, I think you run into the potential of having a political appointment process and you have political appointee is determining who sits on the board for oversight and you don't want that either.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you my final question and we don't have a lot of time but this investigation by the grand jury was prompted by an inquiry by 10 news and the news investigation reported that members or then members of San Diego's minority community didn't trust the citizens review board and they believed that it acted as a rubber stamp for the Police Department and I'm wondering because it sounds as if you would like to see things changed on the board for the better, how do you think the board can go about changing the attitude?

JIM KAESE: Number one we need a full-time Executive Director as I said. Number two I think we need to identify new ways to increase the diversity of the board and I hope the media, KPBS included will help us. I mean I've been on the board for seven years now and every year we have tried to send out our press releases at the times we are interviewing people in looking for candidates trying to increase the diversity of the board and we really haven't got any bites from the media etc. We need to update and reviews review our bylaws we need to ensure that our elected officials know they need to be strong and independent. Like I was saying before I think we could do a better job explaining to interview candidates that you need a little bit of a thick skin in this position. But I do agree with you 100%. I think everyone has the same goal here. The CRB, the grand jury, the media, the citizens, even the police department itself wants to make sure that the police on the street are doing their jobs properly and that there aren't rogue cops out there.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Jim Kaese. He's chair nominee of the citizens review board of police practices Jim, thanks very much for speaking with us.

JIM KAESE: Thanks Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Coming up we meet one of the only sure winners of this year's primary ballot, the unopposed primary candidate for San Diego city Council District 5. And we will learn about rescued treasures from jazz history on display in the Jazz loft Project. It is 12:21. You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition.